Starting a Small Business

Outdoor Dining Districts

COVID-19: FAQ for Business Licensing

As the COVID-19 situation in Hamilton continues to evolve, these Frequently Asked Questions for Business Licensing will be regularly updated as circumstances change to provide residents and business owners with current information.

As part of the City of Hamilton’s ongoing commitment to supporting economic recovery due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, on May 13, 2020, Hamilton City Council unanimously approved the creation of the Outdoor Dining Districts program. This program will allow eligible local businesses to establish temporary seasonal patios and seating areas on municipal or private property (if current zoning is compliant).

There is no application fee to submit an Outdoor Dining District application, however depending on your requirements, additional applications and fees may be needed. The Outdoor Dining Districts Team will work with you to share all requirements and help you through the process.

Outdoor Dining Districts will be permitted in:

  • Business Improvement Areas (BIAs)
  • Community Improvement Plan Areas (CIPAs)
  • Private Property (zoning compliant)

Applications for the 2021 Spring/Summer season will be open on Wednesday, February 17, 2021. All program participants must submit a new application for the 2021 season to be reviewed by the Outdoor Dining Districts Team. The Spring/Summer season will commence on April 1, 2021 aligning with all Provincial guidelines, restrictions and Reopening Framework.

Outdoor Dining Districts shall:

  • be permitted within BIAs, certain municipal property and on private property
  • be limited to cafes, restaurants and bars only
  • comply with all applicable City of Hamilton By-laws
  • adhere to all applicable public health requirements, including an COVID-19 related public health requirements as all as all Provincial Orders
  • permit alcohol service or consumption of alcohol with Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) and City of Hamilton approval
  • provide proof of commercial general liability insurance ($5 million) coverage endorsed to include the City of Hamilton as additional insured
  • be compliant with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)
  • require 2/3 buy-in from all businesses on the affected block(s) through petition if not within a BIA
  • require that the applicants be responsible for the management and operation of any approved Outdoor Dining Districts, including ensuring that they are staffed at all times when open, to ensure proper use, cleaning and physical distancing
  • be permitted until October 31, 2021. The applicant is responsible for removal of the patio and returning the space to its original form no later than 7 am on November 1st.

Outdoor Dining Districts shall NOT:

  • have any negative impacts with respect to pedestrian safety, accessibility, emergency services, public transit, private accesses, etc.
  • change the existing occupancy load of the food service location (as of March 18, 2020)
  • permit smoking, pursuant to the Smoke-Free Act and ‘no smoking’ signage shall be posted at the entrance/exit
  • permit outdoor food preparation (unless from licensed food trucks, street food vending or ice cream trucks permitted to operate)
  • permit the construction of structures with any area greater than 10m2 or the use of tents greater than 60m2
  • permit outside amplified music/sound without an approved Noise Exemption Permit (PDF, )
  • permit obstruction of stormwater flows or block stormwater drains. The Applicant shall be responsible for clearance of any debris or snow and overall maintenance to ensure free flow of water

How to apply for an Outdoor Dining District

  • Step 1 - Review the Criteria for Outdoor Dining Districts and email [email protected] if you have any questions.
  • Step 2 - If within a BIA, you will need to submit written endorsement for the Outdoor Dining District OR if not in a BIA, you will need to speak with neighbouring businesses and get 2/3 to sign off on the Outdoor Dining District (the project team will provide more information).
  • Step 3 - If your dining establishment is on private property and you are a tenant (not a landlord or owner). You must complete the Consent of the Owner or Landlord form (PDF, 48 KB) and submit as part of your application.
  • Step 4 - Prepare a detailed sketch or site map of the proposed Outdoor Dining District area. Maps on municipal property must include dimensions of the patio/dining area, location of entrances/exits from the building and from the patio/dining area, location of any fire department connection and municipal fire hydrant, type of barrier being used, placement of tables and chairs identifying the 2m physical distancing requirements.
  • Step 5 - Complete the applicable Outdoor Dining District Application Form:

Button for Municipal Property Application

Button for Private Property Application

Button for Municipal Property Application for On-Street or Pedestrian By-pass

Once your Outdoor Dining Districts application has been submitted, a member of our team will contact you within 2 business days to discuss further and identify next steps. Total approval time for Outdoor Dining Applications is 15 business days.

Winterizing temporary patios

There are a number of improvements that businesses can make to their patios to make them more conducive to winter outdoor dining. Here is some information on the most frequently sourced solutions:

Temporary portable heaters do not require any city approvals provided they are not affixed to a building or structure. Use must be in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and may also be subject to limitations in accordance with the Ontario Fire Code.

Open fires or fire pits are not permitted in the urban area.

For more information, review the TSSA Heater Safety Guide.

Under the Ontario Building Code, a tent or group of tents is exempt from the requirement to obtain a Building Permit provided that the tent or group of tents are:

  • not more than 60 m2 in aggregate ground area,
  • not attached to a building, and
  • constructed more than 3 metres from other structures.

For tents over 60 m2 in size a Building Permit is required. The tent would be required to be designed to handle area snow loads as per the Ontario Building Code, and it is important to note that “snow removal by mechanical, thermal, manual or other means shall not be used as a rationale to reduce design snow loads”. For tents that require Building Permits, all applicable zoning would have to be met. The City’s Zoning By-law generally treats tents the same as any other structure.

Snow clearance and storage/removal around temporary patios on public property such as sidewalks is the responsibility of the applicants, and must comply with the City of Hamilton’s Snow and Ice By-law No. 03- 296 (PDF, KB), which requires property owners and/or occupants to clear snow and ice from sidewalks adjacent to their property and from roofs that overhang the City sidewalk within 24 hours after the end of a snowfall.

Contact us

Julia Davis
Business Development & BIA Officer
Phone: 905-546-2424 ext. 2632
Email: [email protected]

Sarah Rock
Business Development Officer
Phone: 905-546-2424 ext. 7918
Email: [email protected]